Modern Jive Dance Classes – 3 Tips for Leads and Follows

Modern Jive is one of the easiest partner dances to learn.

It’s also lots of fun, very social and even a few beginner moves look very cool when you’re doing them in the dance club or at a party. People will often clear the floor for you at weddings if they’ve never seen modern jive before. And then they’ll almost always wish they could dance like you. So if you are learning to dance modern jive (and this can apply to other lead-follow partner dances) stick with it. Here are some tips to help you in your weekly modern jive classes and freestyles.  Many of you are already putting these tips into practice…and if you have it never hurts to have a few reminders. If you’ve recently started dancing with us at Jive Nation Toronto I hope you find these tips helpful.

Tips for the men (a.k.a.leads)

1.Always dance in the freestyle after the formal lesson

Dance with as many different dancers as you can. It will help you improve your dancing. In short, it is practice. Set yourself a goal (dance with 5 different new people, dance to 6 dance tracks, do all right handed moves or left-handed moves or whatever goal you want. The point is find reasons to dance as much as possible in freestyle because it will cement what you have learned and build your confidence like nothing else can.

2. Pick one move to master each week

In addition to the new moves you’ve learned at your weekly class.  Slot it in whenever you can. If you can remember more that’s good however it is better to master one or two and add them in than try and remember eight moves. Once muscle memory kicks in you will be able to recall moves without thinking. You can see all be beginner moves in our library of modern jive dance videos.

3. Leads – Work on Your Leading

Yes, learning to lead a dance takes work in the beginning. Most of that is practice until you feel comfortable you are giving the right amount of lead for the lady. Until it comes naturally it will feel like you have to think about it – which is true Again, it’s only until it becomes second nature. The lady relies on your direction (lead) to know what move to do in modern jive. For example to do a spin, you need to actually “spin” the lady, not wait for her to move on her own. She uses the lead’s momentum to make that spin. Think of it as a conversation, the lady has to “hear” the lead in order to make that return or the next move. That means, men, your lead cannot be indistinct or garbled or “wimpy” it needs to be clear and definite so that she can interpret it correctly as well as listening to the music.

When you first begin dancing modern jive the concept of leading may seem confusing. It greatly improves the more you dance – and the more you apply the tips from your teacher. Try to imagine the lady not moving until you lead her. Ladies, if you feel the man could give a stronger lead, try asking him to firm up his lead. Some ladies prefer a lighter lead in the dance, however most prefer a clear strong lead.

Tips for the ladies ( a.k.a.Follows)

1. Be patient with the beginner dancer leads

They won’t be beginners for long. Leads have a LOT to do (lead the move, stay on the beat, keep the beat, hear the music, think of the next move, and make it fun for their dancer partner) and initially it can be challenging doing all of this smoothly. But that’s only when they are learning.  In modern jive, following  is an art in itself, most of us ladies have to learn it and it is as essential to the dance as leading. Again, think of modern jive dancing as a conversation – speaking and hearing/responding. Some ladies are instinctively wonderful follows, they almost instinctively understand the lead-follow dynamic of modern jive and even when dancing with them as a beginner they make you feel great and encouraged. If this is you, you will quickly find yourself becoming  a sought-after and long-remembered dancing partner who has helped many a beginner on their way to  dancing confidence and sometimes dancing stardom.

2. Resist the temptation to anticipate the Lead

the guy’s next move or lead. This can be  challenging sometimes when you are dancing with novices because in the class section the ladies know what moves are coming next – and probably how to do it too. However, when dancing  in freestyle you won’t necessarily know what the lead’s going to do next, you will feel how to respond to a lead if he has a good clear lead.  So ladies, simply smile and wait… it will help the leads develop their lead and they will be eternally grateful for your patience.

3. Don’t be shy ladies – ask the men to dance!

The answer will almost always be “yes, I’d love to dance.” We don’t stand on ceremony at modern jive. The fastest way to get dances is to ask. I do it all the time. In London recently I was at a new venue and didn’t know anyone. I had so many dances simply by not waiting for the guys to ask me… I went up and asked them. In every case they said yes. And I danced with so many different people and learned lots of great moves. So don’t wait to be asked, just get in there ladies and ask away… the guys really do appreciate it (especially when they’ve just begun learning to dance and may be a little shy) – and you get lots of dances. We really do mean it at modern jive when we say “ask anyone to dance.” And that means anyone, even the teachers.